Tech Thoughts Net News – Monday Edition – September 28, 2015

Keeping your kids safe online? Follow these 5 tips;  One in every 14 Americans fell victim to identity theft last year;  Back to basics: The three easiest ways to back up your files;  Five Android apps that prolong your smartphone’s battery life;  How to uninstall default apps in Windows 10;  Eight apps optimized for 3D Touch on your new iPhone 6S;  Turnkey Linux 14: Small business server Linux made easy;  Google Update Promises More Accurate, Faster Voice Search;  13 iPad Apps to Make You a Way Better Cook;  How to make Cortana search with Google instead of Bing in Windows 10;  Here’s the 1 Device Every Road Warrior Needs in Their Kit;  How hackers can access iPhone contacts and photos without a password;  Hackers restore PlayStation TV compatibility;  Use Tinder Or Grindr? This Billboard Suggests Getting Tested For An STD;  Size matters: Are your speakers too big or too small for your room?  Apple is obviously a cult (and Samsung isn’t), says cultural historian;  Is Android a monopoly?  Saudi Arabia came close to buying Hacking Team;  Here are the coolest things you can do with the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

British spies cast net to monitor every web surfer, everywhere, leaked documents show – British surveillance center GCHQ monitored network traffic around the world in order to build up a browsing profile for every Internet user, leaked documents show.

Keeping your kids safe online? Follow these 5 tips – It’s a nightmare come true – your (grand)children are sitting at the dinner table or lying around in the living room, vulnerable to unknown threats. Your mind spins as you wonder, what in the world are my children looking at? Are they downloading explicit content, or planning to meet with sexual predators? And most importantly: isn’t our home the one place my kids should be safe?

One in every 14 Americans fell victim to identity theft last year – Almost 18 million people were victims of identity theft in the United States last year, with the majority of crimes targeting credit cards and bank accounts, the Department of Justice said Sunday. The figure represents 7 percent of the U.S. population aged 16 or older and is a rise of 1 million people from 2012, the last year for which the DOJ’s Bureau of Justice Statistics published a similar report. The latest report counts instances where a person experienced misuse of a financial or other account — not simply a breach of their personal information. Just over two in every five cases involved a credit card account and just under two in five involved a bank account. About half of all victims first became aware of a problem when they were contacted by a financial institution with a further one in five noticing fraudulent charge in their account.

Pro tip: Easy file encryption on your Chromebook with miniLock – Your files saved on Google Drive are encrypted by default. However, when you you need to send a file to a user, you download (to a specific file format) and then send that file to the user. That file you just sent is unencrypted. So how do you manage to send an encrypted file to a user? You take advantage of a simple Chrome addon called miniLock.  This add on makes file encryption very easy and doesn’t require you to sign up for a service or plan. It’s free and takes all the guesswork out of encryption.

Back to basics: The three easiest ways to back up your files – Creating a backup of your precious and important files is crucial. It minimizes the risk that you’ll lose your tax documents, baby’s pictures and school work in the event of theft, fire or hard drive failure. Backing up files and photos isn’t hard, but with several different ways to go about it, it can be confusing to get started. This guide gives you the basics on the various choices you have to back up your files and the tips to make it easy.

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How to uninstall default apps in Windows 10 – Some default apps can be uninstalled easily from the Start menu. To do this, find the default app you want to uninstall in the Start menu, right-click on the app, and choose Uninstall from the drop-down menu that appears. Apps that can be uninstalled this way include Get Started, Get Skype, Get Office, Microsoft Solitaire Collection, Money, News, Phone Companion, Sports, Optional Features, Windows Media Player, and Windows DVD Player. But for other apps — including Calculator, Calendar, Mail, Camera, Maps, Movies & TV, People, Photos, Store, and Weather — you’ll need to use the PowerShell. (Some apps, such as Cortana, Microsoft Edge, and Windows Feedback cannot be uninstalled at all.) Here’s how to do that:

Five Android apps that prolong your smartphone’s battery life – I often spend time exploring battery-saving apps and have become quite fond of a few in particular. Here’s a list of five of my favorite apps for prolonging the life of your Android’s battery. Note that there are a few common settings that overlap across the apps, but in this piece, I’ve tried to highlight some of the features that help separate each app from the pack.

Eight apps optimized for 3D Touch on your new iPhone 6S – So, you’ve got a new iPhone 6S. You’ve turned it on; maybe you’ve restored it from iCloud. You firmly press on the display to try this new, magical, 3D Touch feature (the first time, you probably do it wrong, and your apps wiggle just like they used to). You can “peek” at Mail! Cool. Now what? It’s not just Apple’s native apps that will work with 3D Touch; today a bunch of third-party app makers started rolling out updated versions of their apps that support the feature as well. Below is a list of apps you can reliably use with 3D Touch. Keep in mind, these aren’t the best apps, per se — it’s too soon to tell which ones are actually the most useful. But these will give you an idea of how app makers are thinking about using 3D Touch.

Here are the coolest things you can do with the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus – The arrival of the new phones also brings with it a handful of must-try apps that take advantage of the new hardware and software improvements. We’ve broken down all of the steps required to dive head first into the iPhone 6S, organized into three neat categories: apps to download, iOS 9 features to try, and settings that help you stay in control. Let’s dive in!

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Adobe debuts Photoshop and Premiere Elements 14 – Just as they do every year, Adobe has announced new versions of its Photoshop Elements and Premiere Elements software, their consumer-level photo and video editing applications. Both packages have received brand new tools and features, as well as improvements to the existing set, making editing easier for those not interested in the full-blown professional suite of software. Both Photoshop and Premiere Elements will be released later this year on both Mac and Windows, for $99 each or together for $149.

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Google Update Promises More Accurate, Faster Voice Search – The search giant this week said it has built “better neural network acoustic models,” which means your phone should better understand what you’re trying to dictate. “In addition to requiring much lower computational resources, the new models are more accurate, robust to noise, and faster to respond to voice search queries,” the Google Speech Team wrote in a blog post. Google gave voice search a big upgrade in 2012 by adopting something known as Deep Neural Networks (DNNs). But three years is an eternity in tech terms, so this week’s upgrade means better results that are “blazingly fast,” Google said.

How to make Cortana search with Google instead of Bing in Windows 10 – Windows 10’s Cortana uses Bing for web searches by default with no official option to change it, but there are ways to get Cortana to embrace Google.

Turnkey Linux 14: Small business server Linux made easy –  Let’s say you want inexpensive, open-source server applications that are under your control… but you don’t have the tech chops to install Linux server programs from packages, never mind source code. If that’s you, then you need Turnkey Linux. This Linux distribution, based on Debian 8.2 (Jessie), makes it easy for you to install complete, working Linux, Apache, MySQL, Perl/PHP/Python (LAMP) servers on your own servers, the Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud, and soon Linux Docker containers. The key word is “easy.” Turnkey makes it possible for anyone who’s Linux savvy, as opposed to a system administrator, to get over a hundred different Linux server applications up and running.

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Turnkey Linux makes setting up Linux server apps easy.

13 iPad Apps to Make You a Way Better Cook – Between the enormous amount of food media in the world—from food bloggers and recipe websites to television shows and glossy magazines—cookbooks, and our tried-and-trued recipe collections, it’s hard to know exactly where to begin to look for recipes, let alone cook from them. And organizing them is a challenge all its own. These apps are doing a lot of heavy lifting. We’re not saying that you should give up on your cookbook shelf, but we are saying that our apps are suddenly the most helpful kitchen companions since our grandmothers (or Julia Child). Here are the 13 cooking apps we find essential in the kitchen and out:

10 enthralling TED Talks sure to mesmerize tech enthusiasts – These inspiring, sometimes frightening presentations detail how technologies from bionics to big data to machine learning will change our world for good or ill — and sooner than you might think.

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Use Tinder Or Grindr? This Billboard Suggests Getting Tested For An STD – I’d like to point out that there is no scientific evidence saying that just using the apps Tinder or Grindr will cause an STD. However, what happens after using those apps as partially intended may. The site FreeSTDCheck.org and AIDS Health Foundation is leveraging the popularity of these dating apps to get the word out about getting yourself checked out for a sexually transmitted disease.

Here’s the 1 Device Every Road Warrior Needs in Their Kit – There’s never been a wireless hotspot that looks as good as the Karma Go, a coaster-sized device that offers pay-as-you-go, never-expires data service. At the same time, it’s never been easier to get connected via your phone or broadband provider’s hotspots without having to carry around yet another gadget. So the question is, does anybody really need one of these things? The Go, which started shipping over the summer, provides high-speed connectivity over Sprint’s 4G LTE network. The hardware costs $149, while data service starts at $14 for 1 GB with discounts for the more data you buy. (1 GB doesn’t get you very far; you’ll probably end up buying more.)

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Karma Go

Size matters: Are your speakers too big or too small for your room? – It’s an audiophile conundrum: are your speakers too big for your room, or is your room too small for your speakers?

Security:

How hackers can access iPhone contacts and photos without a password – iPhone users have yet another screenlock bypass vulnerability to watch out for, according to a new video demonstration that shows how the bug can be exploited to gain unauthorized access to photos and contacts. The hack reportedly works on iOS version 9.0.1, which Apple released Wednesday, although some people say they are unable to reproduce it. The vulnerability makes it possible for someone who gets even a brief moment with an iPhone to rifle through contacts and photos without entering the password. Here it is in action.

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Beware! iOS 9 & iOS 9.0.1 – Security Flaw – Passcode Bypass. Turn Off Siri on Lockscreen to be Safe.

Cookie handling in browsers can break HTTPS security – Man-in-the-middle attackers can inject cookies over HTTP connections in order to extract information from encrypted HTTPS traffic.

US reaches economic cybersecurity agreement with China – Today, President Obama, appearing with Chinese President Xi Jinping, announced that the United States and China had reached an agreement to curb “cyber-enabled theft of intellectual property” between the two countries. Obama, at the announcement, said he had “indicated it has to stop,” and that the two had come to a “common understanding.” According to a statement from the White House, the two countries now “agree that neither country’s government will conduct or knowingly support cyber-enabled theft of intellectual property, including trade secrets or other confidential business information, with the intent of providing competitive advantages to companies or commercial sectors.”

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Win McNamee/Getty Images

Analysis: China-US hacking accord is tall on rhetoric, short on substance – The accord President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping announced Friday—a “common understanding” to curb state-sponsored, corporate cyber espionage toward one another—inches us toward that goal if we assume both sides would uphold their end of the bargain. It’s a momentous first step at a historical stage in which the battlefield is evolving online—from the real world to the virtual world. And it comes as both sides are engaged in finger pointing on the topic and accusing the other of cyber transgressions. But even assuming both sides would follow the pact, the accord is tall on rhetoric and short on substance.

Don’t Panic Over The Rise In Personal Data Theft – Instead of freaking out and retracing our steps, we must take the necessary precautions to save our personal and corporate lives. Perhaps the silver lining in all these attacks is that it has raised awareness among companies and governments, and many countries are considering passing laws that bind service providers to protect user data.

10 weird and wild cutting-edge security threats – When you think of security vulnerabilities, the first thing that likely comes to your mind are flaws in Windows or apps like Adobe Reader that let hackers wreak havoc on your PC. But computers are everywhere these days, and with more computers come more security headaches. Join us as we look at ten hacks and vulnerabilities that take threats to the next level. Somehow, things have gotten even crazier since our last look at shocking security exploits.

Company News:

It’s official: Blackberry’s Android phone—the “Priv”—will launch this year – Blackberry is finally joining Team Android. During the company’s latest earnings report (PDF), the company officially announced it would release an Android phone.

John Chen, Blackberry’s executive chairman and CEO, confirmed the earlier rumors. “Today, I am confirming our plans to launch Priv, an Android device named after BlackBerry’s heritage and core mission of protecting our customers’ privacy,” he said. “Priv combines the best of BlackBerry security and productivity with the expansive mobile application ecosystem available on the Android platform.”

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Google Announces Plan To Put Wi-Fi In 400 Train Stations Across India – Today, Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai shared details on a new plan to bring more Indian residents online. He notes that there’s still over a billion of them in his native country that aren’t connected. The key? India’s train system. And a plan to bring Wi-Fi to its 10 million rail passengers a day. And it’s free (to start). Pichai shared Google’s plans, while sharing his own story about his days using Chennai Central station to get to school.

We’d like to help get these next billion Indians online—so they can access the entire web, and all of its information and opportunity. And not just with any old connection—with fast broadband so they can experience the best of the web. That’s why, today, on the occasion of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to our U.S. headquarters, and in line with his Digital India initiative, we announced a new project to provide high-speed public Wi-Fi in 400 train stations across India.

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Lyft Moves Customer Support Team To Nashville To Combat High-Priced SF Market – Lyft is building out its new customer service headquarters in Nashville, where overhead such as rent and salaries are cheaper. It will also help Lyft’s east coast support. The ride-sharing startup is asking customer service reps in San Francisco to work out of the capital of country music, instead. The move is part of a growing trend in Silicon Valley to find cheaper space and lower overhead elsewhere. Average office rent in San Francisco nearly doubled from $30 in 2013 to $70 per square foot today. Compare that to the $18-$22 average per square foot rental price in downtown Nashville.

Sprint Fined $1.2M for 911 Outage – If you’re a hard of hearing Sprint customer and you called 911 between March and September 2014, you were probably a little shocked to find that your captioned telephone service didn’t work. The Federal Communications Commission has slapped Sprint with a fairly hefty $1,175,000 fine for the outage, as the system—which basically gives a person captions to read when making a call—is a pretty integral part of the emergency calling process.

Games and Entertainment:

Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 will only be half a game on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 – Call of Duty: Black Ops 3, set to land on November 6 this year, will be a five platform affair, shipping on PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3. But Activision today dropped some bad news on the owners of the older consoles who were hoping to enjoy the latest iteration of the cinematic shooter series. The Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 aren’t going to get the full game. They’ll get the conventional multiplayer game, and the multiplayer zombie mode, but that’s all; the campaign mode, which will support both single player and co-operative multiplayer, won’t be available.

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Fully-featured Twitch apps are coming to PlayStation platforms – Twitch announced today at its first ever TwitchCon conference that it’s launching an improved suite of apps for Sony’s PlayStation platforms. PlayStation 4 users have been able to record directly to Twitch’s game-streaming platform using the console’s share features, as well as watch other PS4 content. But there hasn’t yet been an app that lets you watch any Twitch channel regardless of platform and enjoy the full features of the desktop website or mobile app. Twitch is launching its new PS4 app alongside versions for the PlayStation 3, the PlayStation Vita handheld, and the PlayStation TV micro-console this fall.

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Hackers restore PlayStation TV compatibility that was blocked by Sony – When we gave our impressions of Sony’s Vita-based PlayStation TV microconsole last year, our biggest complaint was with the tiny unit’s widespread lack of compatibility with existing portable software. Hundreds of games that work just fine on the portable PlayStation Vita just refused to load on a PlayStation TV. Now, some enterprising hackers have apparently gone a long way toward fixing this problem by increasing the PlayStation TV’s software compatibility with a simple hack. The method, as outlined on HackInformer, exploits an error in the PlayStation TV’s e-mail app that lets users write files to the system memory by attaching them as fake images in a message. Using this method and a specially built “whitelist” file, players can unlock the ability to play many (but not all) previously incompatible Vita games and apps on their PlayStation TV.

Mega Man successor Mighty No. 9 gets a February release – The oft-delayed successor to the Mega Man franchise, Mighty No. 9, now has another release date. (One that we hope it sticks to). Developer Comcept and publisher Deep Silver announced today that the game will hit American PS4s, Wii Us, and Xbox Ones next year on February 9th. The rest of the world will be able to enjoy it on February 12th.

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‘Oculus Ready’ PCs will be guaranteed to meet virtual reality’s demanding needs – In case you missed it, the minimum specs for the Oculus Rift are:

4GB RAM

Nvidia 9800 or AMD 4870 graphics card with 1 GB dedicated RAM

2.4 GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 CPU or 2.4 GHz AMD Phenom 9850 Quad Core CPU

65 GB HDD

While the recommended specs are a bit beefier:

Nvidia GTX 970 / AMD 290 equivalent or greater

Intel i5-4590 equivalent or greater

8GB+ RAM

Compatible HDMI 1.3 video output

Off Topic (Sort of):

Is Android a monopoly? – A report from Bloomberg this morning suggests that US antitrust regulators are looking into whether Google has engaged in anticompetitive practices with its Android operating system. It seems a preposterous question to ask, but might Android constitute an actual monopoly? Google doesn’t make any phones, and it doesn’t force Android on anyone — phone makers choose to ship devices with that software on board. Google also isn’t fully in control of Android, as evidenced by the hundreds of millions of Android smartphones being sold in China without Google’s apps or blessing. Android is famed as the open-source alternative to Apple’s closed iOS, and the two are locked in a healthy and balanced competition in the United States, with Google’s software claiming 59 percent of the market and Apple taking 38 percent. From a consumer perspective, it’s a fair fight with no monopoly in sight.

Apple is obviously a cult (and Samsung isn’t), says cultural historian – The idea that Apple is less a brand and more a religious cult has been around for a while. Not so long ago, Samsung mocked the living bejaysus out of Apple’s cultitude in very funny ads. It built the Galaxy franchise upon that pedestal of mockery. It takes, though, an intellectual to put a deeper stamp of authority on Apple’s cult status. Hosannas, therefore, to Atlas Obscura, which probed the views of NYU professor Erica Robles-Anderson. Robles-Anderson is a cultural historian who, when examining a Manhattan Apple store, declared, “It’s a cult. Right? It’s so obviously a cult.”

Indian Prime Minister Tells Zuckerberg Social Media Creates A New Form Of Diplomacy – Prime Minister Narendra Modi told Mark Zuckerberg that social media can show governments where they’re going wrong, and allow heads of state to connect more personably than ever before. During a townhall Q&A at Facebook’s Menlo Park headquarters, the two leaders talked about the modernization of India and discussed topics from the 40,000 questions and comments submitted by the public. The talk can be watched here. As the world’s largest democracy and a massively lucrative market for tech companies, execs from several tech giants made time to meet with Modi during his visit to Silicon Valley this week, including Google, Apple, and Tesla, as Re/Code reported.

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Facebook ‘unfriending’ is workplace bullying, Australia tribunal finds – As News.com reports, Australia’s Fair Work Commission was hearing the case of Rachael Roberts, who worked for a real estate agency in Tasmania. Roberts’ allegation was that Lisa Bird, a sales administrator, and her husband James constantly “belittled and humiliated” her. Roberts claimed almost 20 incidents from her three years with the company. These included being forbidden from changing the temperature on the AC in the office. One of them, though, was deeply heinous: Bird unfriended Roberts on Facebook.

The Future Of Coding Is Here, And It Threatens To Wipe Out Everything In Its Path – APIs — the rules governing how software programs interact with each other — not user interfaces, will upend software for years to come. When Intel CEO Brian Krzanich doubled down on the Internet of Things at the company’s annual Developer Forum in August, he emphasized what many of us have already known — the dawn of a new era in software engineering.

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CVS pharmacies in 12 more states will carry drug to treat heroin overdose – The medication, Naloxone, will now be available without a prescription at CVS stores in 12 additional states. Those states include Arkansas, California, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, and Wisconsin. Naloxone is already available over the counter at CVS stores in Rhode Island and Massachusetts. “Over 44,000 people die from accidental drug overdoses every year in the United States and most of those deaths are from opioids, including controlled substance pain medication and illegal drugs such as heroin,” Tom Davis, vice president of pharmacy professional practices at CVS, said in a statement. “Naloxone is a safe and effective antidote to opioid overdoses and by providing access to this medication in our pharmacies without a prescription in more states, we can help save lives.”

Dartmouth researcher building a cost-effective supercomputer using smartphones – Solving complex problems requires supercomputers, but most university research centers can’t afford to buy a supercomputer or rent time on one. A physicist wants to change that.

Something to think about:

“If the world were perfect, it wouldn’t be.”

–     Yogi Berra

Downloads:

RawTherapee – RawTherapee is a cross-platform raw image processing program, released under the GNU General Public License Version 3. It was originally written by Gábor Horváth of Budapest. Rather than being a raster graphics editor such as Photoshop or GIMP, it is specifically aimed at raw photo post-production. And it does it very well – at a minimum, RawTherapee is one of the most powerful raw processing programs available.

High Image Quality

96-bit (floating point) processing engine.

Non-destructive editing.

Get the most details and least artifacts from your raw photos thanks to modern and traditional demosaicing algorithms: AMaZE, DCB, AHD, EAHD, HPHD, IGV, LMMSE, VNG4, Mono and Fast.

Advanced color handling from white balance to HSV (Hue-Saturation-Value) curves, color toning and color management.

Powerful CIE Color Appearance Model 2002 (CIECAM02) module.

Enhanced exposure and tonality tools: tone and Lab curves, highlights and shadows tools, tone mapping (HDR-like effect), etc.

Multiple denoising methods: luminance, chrominance (both rewritten in 2012), impulse (for salt and pepper noise) noise reduction.

Several tools to enhance details: unsharp mask, RL deconvolution, contrast by detail levels.

Efficiency

Multi-threaded algorithms for high performance (RawTherapee can utilize modern processor features, like SSE).

Quick thumbnails load lightning fast and are replaced later with live thumbnails.

Batch processing: convert all the developed images at once without loading the processor while you work.

Copy/paste editing parameters from one file to many other. Partially copying and/or pasting is also possible.

Basic tools immediately at your hands.

Parallel editing of multiple images in separate editor tabs, and/or all at once from the file browser.

An optional secondary display can be used.

Versatility

Wide variety of supported cameras: almost all DSLRs and even some medium format bodies are supported.

Can load most raw files including 16-, 24- and 32-bit raw HDR DNG images, as well as standard JPEG, PNG (8- and 16-bit) and TIFF (8-, 16- and 32-bit logluv) images.

Can save JPEG, PNG (8- and 16-bit) and TIFF (8- and 16-bit) images.

Advanced control over the algorithms with many fine-tuning parameters and curves.

Can send to GIMP or the editing tool of your choice in one click (16-bit TIFF file).

Command line usage besides the normal graphical interface.

Various layouts: multiple tabs, single tab with filmstrip, vertical tab with filmstrip, dual monitor.

Freedom for Free

RawTherapee is free and open source software, meaning you can use it free of charge, wherever you like on whatever hardware you like, as long as you abide by the copyleft GPLv3 license. Download the source code, modify it, feel free to do what comes to mind. We believe in open software.

It is cross-platform: Linux, Mac, or Windows, be it 32-bit or 64-bit – you pick, we provide.

International: it is available in 25 languages!

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Detail windows let you peek at a higher magnification at areas of interest. As this is a HDR DNG image, even the darkest areas show no noise.

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

GCHQ tried to track Web visits of “every visible user on Internet” – If you used the World Wide Web anytime after 2007, the United Kingdom’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) has probably spied on you. That’s the revelation contained in documents published today by The Intercept, which detail a GCHQ operation called “Karma Police”—a program that tracked Web browsing habits of people around the globe in what the agency itself billed as the “world’s biggest” Internet data-mining operation, intended to eventually track “every visible user on the Internet.”

Karma Police—apparently named after the Radiohead song—started as a program to track individuals listening to Internet streaming audio “radio stations” as part of a research project into how radicals might “misuse” Internet radio to spread their messages. Listeners to streams that included Islamic religious content were targeted for more data collection in an effort to identify their Skype and social media accounts. The program gradually grew with its success. According to GCHQ documents, by 2009 the program had stored over 1.1 trillion “events”—Web browsing sessions—in its “Black Hole” database. By 2010, the system was gathering 30 billion records per day of Internet traffic metadata. According to another GCHQ document, that volume grew to 50 billion per day by 2012.

The Karma Police system and its Black Hole database log the IP addresses of individuals visiting Internet sites, as well as the cookies associated with their Web traffic. The users of specific sites can then be profiled by correlating recorded cookies from other sites, such as those used to deliver personalized ads (for instance, the Google “pref” cookie) or site login credentials.

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Saudi Arabia came close to buying Hacking Team – The Saudi Arabian government came close to buying control of Italian surveillance software company Hacking Team, notorious for selling its product to undemocratic regimes, according to hacked emails posted by WikiLeaks.

The negotiations were handled by Wafic Said, a Syrian-born businessman based in the U.K. who is a close friend of the Saudi royal family, and also involved Ronald Spogli, a former U.S. ambassador to Italy, who had an indirect investment in Hacking Team.

The deal collapsed in early 2014 after the removal of Prince Bandar bin Sultan as head of the Saudi intelligence service. The former Saudi ambassador to Washington had backed the purchase but it was not supported by his successor.

Saudi Arabia has long had a reputation as a human rights violator and this week it emerged that a Saudi court had confirmed a death sentence on a young man convicted of participating in antigovernment protests inspired by the Arab Spring. Ali al-Nimr has been sentenced to be beheaded and then crucified for crimes he allegedly committed at the age of 17.

Eric Rabe, a spokesman for Hacking Team, said the talks had never been close to completion. Countries such as Saudi Arabia were allies of the West and it was important that they should receive instruments that enabled them to combat crime and terrorism, he said in a telephone interview.

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